For starters -- no, I am not teaching at the same high school as Tony Danza.
For the last few weeks I've been doing Rob's job, teaching his classes. I won't lie, I'm not the least qualified person that could've been put in his shoes, but it doesn't mean I've been loving it. It's been... educational, I suppose you could say.
Given that I appear to be a person who has been doing this job, teaching high school, for several years, I didn't expect anyone to cut me slack while I found my footing. I came in intent on running things by the books and just taking as straightforward a route as I can. Not ruffling any feathers. To date, nobody has called me out on my performance, which shouldn't come as a surprise I guess, even if I'm often self-conscious about it.
What I discovered after a week or two is that I really hate doing that. I lose focus on the topic at hand, I go on tangents, I get distracted when the kids start acting up and I lose control. It's a waste of energy.
I decided that the only way I'm going to survive this job (by which I mean not "avoid getting fired" but rather "keep from exploding") is to do it my way. Free-form it. To my (partial) surprise I've found I've got a bit of knack for improvising my way through this whole thing, maybe because I always had an appreciation for teachers who seemed to love their material, so deep down I'm emulating their behaviour. (I should get out of the habit of using my beloved Canadian spellings, shouldn't I...)
I teach three classes through the day, each with something of a different strategy. Second period (man I love having first period off so I can arrive late or just hang around the teacher's lounge) I teach Grade 9 English (er, "Ninth Grade") which is mostly language-based, so I'm doing lesson-plan stuff involving sentence-diagrams, symbolic language, fairly basic stuff. A little later will be book reports mixed in, but for now its grammar hour.
Third period I move up to grade 10 (again, "Tenth Grade") where we've started with some short story discussions and in October we'll be moving on to Romeo and Juliet, one of my favourites. So far, some of the kids have made some very intriguing observations about the stories we've studied. It's led to some cool discussions I was glad to witness.
One thing you can't say about these kids is that they're dumb. Okay, some of them are, but it's not to the level where I would give up on them, because they all show promise and good critical thinking, even if it is sometimes misplaced. (One student spent about ten minutes laying out a case that Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" was about racism, which was an interesting extrapolation if a little creative/colorful/misguided.)
Anyway. I don't know how much time I want to spend talking about the job, but at the same time that is most of what's going on in my life. Todd and I talk a lot on MSN and he's been saying I should be posting more, and I say the same thing to him, so this is me trying to encourage him. As usual I have to set the example (long story.)
I almost didn't mention, my last class, fifth period (after getting fourth for lunch) which is American History. I'll admit, that's still mainly me reading from a textbook. It'll be more interesting when the kids start doing historical re-creations and such later in the semester.
So yeah, the first couple weeks have been a bit of a blur. It's so weird being among these kids and looking like a real adult, as opposed to, I dunno, I guess I really am an adult but as a 24-year-old grad student a high school kid might feel more like my contemporary even though the grade 9's were born after Kurt Cobain died. That's messed up.
So anyway. I haven't gotten around to writing about it for a few reasons. For starters, I get pretty tired by the time I finally get home I just want to hang out on the couch with my hand down my pants (seriously, why are those things never comfortable unless I'm cupping them? Rhetorical question. Also, exaggeration-but-not-really.) For another thing, it's not a huge part of the "Strange being a man" story this blog seems more geared toward. I mean, I guess anything is fair game, but whether I just adapted quickly, or I lost interest, I just have a hard time discerning exactly what I should be writing here. So if I disappear for long spans, I apologize in advance.
I mean, yes, it is extremely odd walking around a high school full of teenagers and being looked at as some kind of authority figure. Towering over a lot of these kids in my white shirt and tie. Being sure to avert my eyes whenever a girl tests the dress code just a little too much. Some things never change, and the desire for "a certain type" of girl to want to show off her body is one of those things. And I remember how all the male teachers who enforced those rules would be thought of as pervs amongst the girls... not that I was ever one of those "dress-code testing" girls (well, I've got some outfits at home, but they came later for me.)
Example. I was on lunchtime hallway duty with a male teacher friend of Rob's (and I guess, by extension, mine) about the same age, and as one group of girls passed he just shook his head and muttered wryly "My friend, we were born in the wrong decade." He laughed about it, but I was just grossed out.
I was never a "bad girl" and I don't think I was particularly weak-willed but it still feels strange that young people see me as being in charge of stuff. They ask me if they can go to the washroom. I CONTROL THEIR BLADDERS, DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!
Yet that still does not stop them from talking when I'm trying to teach, or leaving their garbage behind at the cafeteria tables.
I still don't think I was made for this "inspiring young minds" thing, but I fake it about as well as some of the teachers I had when I was in high school.
Stressful, but... manageable, I guess. For now.